Africa Media Review for April 21, 2020

Chad’s Escalating Fight against Boko Haram
A rise in Boko Haram and ISWA attacks in Chad has been met with a military surge to clear the area. Enduring success will require a sustained presence and an intensified regional commitment. On March 23, Boko Haram militants staged a complex attack on Chadian troops stationed at a base in Bohoma. The attack lasted for 7 hours and ultimately left 98 Chadian soldiers dead and dozens more wounded. The battle of Bohoma … highlights worrying improvements to Boko Haram’s combat and intelligence capacities, given that the Chadian Army has been widely considered the superior regional force. … After the March 23 attack, the Chadian military launched an offensive led by President Idriss Déby to clear the insurgents from Chadian territory. Boko Haram’s ability to accomplish such a devastating attack, along with the preceding increase in militant Islamist group activity in Chad’s Lac Province, however, raises the prospect that Boko Haram and ISWA have gained momentum and now pose a greater threat to Chad and stability in the wider region. Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Lesotho Government Agrees “Dignified Retirement” for PM Thabane
Lesotho’s government has agreed with South African mediators and political parties to implement a “dignified retirement” for prime minister Thomas Thabane, a joint statement said on Monday, signalling stepped up efforts to end a political crisis. Thabane has been under pressure to resign owing to a murder case in which he and his current wife are suspected of being involved in the assassination of his previous wife, charges which both of them deny. “The coalition government of the Kingdom of Lesotho commits to effecting the implementation process or modalities for the dignified, graceful and secure retirement of the right honourable prime minister,” a joint statement said. …  South African diplomats stepped in to try to calm tensions on Sunday, a day after Thabane sent soldiers and armoured vehicles onto the streets of Maseru to restore order against what he said were “rogue national elements.” Though small and with a population of not much more than 2 million, Lesotho’s political upheavals often draw in its bigger neighbour, South Africa, for whom the kingdom’s mountains are an essential source of running water. Reuters

God, Not Masks: Magufuli’s Tanzania Is an Outlier on Virus Response
Tanzanian President John Magufuli has called on citizens to turn to God and to keep the economy turning, but as coronavirus cases creep up, calls are rising for the country to take stronger action. While countries across Africa have imposed curfews, partial and full lockdowns, Tanzania has resisted such measures. Schools and universities have been shut but markets, bus stops and shops bustle as usual. Magufuli, who called for three days of prayer from last Friday to fight the virus, is one of a handful of world leaders still brushing off the seriousness of the disease. … He reiterated his message on Good Friday, last week, saying God would protect Tanzanians from the virus. Tanzania recorded its first case of coronavirus on March 16 — and in the past week numbers have leapt from 32 to 147, with five deaths. … African countries have lagged behind the global curve, and many took fast and strict measures to curb movement, however cases are rising across the continent. “I am not happy about the lack of seriousness by the government, lack of transparency on the data of cases and deaths, and state of denial the president has on the pandemic,” an opposition MP, Zitto Kabwe, who is also the leader of the ACT Wazalendo party, told AFP. AFP

Joy or Fear? Mixed Feelings as Ghana Ends Virus Lockdown
The streets of Accra buzzed with life following President Nana Akufo-Addo’s announcement of the end to a three-week restriction on movement around the capital and second region Kumasi. Akufo-Addo told the nation in a televised address that increased testing, aggressive contact tracing and expanded isolation centres allowed him to halt measures that hit the country’s poor hard. … Ghana’s decision to lift the lockdown on the two key regions will be watched closely across Africa. Authorities on the continent are grappling with a difficult balancing act: how to curb the spread of the virus while allowing millions living in poverty to earn money and feed themselves. … The country’s borders remain closed and measures shuttering schools and limiting public gatherings are still in force. But some working in the health sector said Ghana – widely seen as a model of political stability in a volatile region – was risking any progress by lifting the lockdown. AFP

Nigerian Northeastern State of Borno Orders Lockdown after First Coronavirus Death
Nigeria’s poor northeastern state of Borno, ravaged by a decade of attacks by the Boko Haram jihadist group, ordered a lockdown on Monday after a nurse with the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) died from the novel coronavirus. It was the first coronavirus fatality in Borno, where there are fears that the disease could spread rapidly among the two million people displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency living in the Lake Chad region in overcrowded camps with poor sanitary facilities. “I am hereby directing a lockdown that will require cessation of all movements in Borno State for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 22:30 on Wednesday… All citizens in Borno State are to stay in their homes,” governor Babagana Umara Zulum said. Several Nigerian states have already adopted strict confinement measures despite protests in a country where nearly half of the nearly 200 million population live in grinding poverty despite its oil wealth. AFP

Voices from the Violence: How Burkina Faso’s Crisis Is Changing Society – and How to Fix It
In 1984, a year after taking charge of the former French colony known as Upper Volta, the late revolutionary Thomas Sankara renamed the country Burkina Faso – the land of upright and honest men in local parlance. The country’s long history of religious tolerance and social harmony – in a region troubled by conflict – made it a fitting name, even after the death of Sankara in a 1987 putsch led by his close aide, Blaise Compaoré. But in recent years the land of honest men has found itself facing an existential threat: spreading violence by Islamist militants and a patchwork of other militia groups that is destroying the social fabric and turning communities against each other. … The New Humanitarian has been on the ground covering the latest violence. The numbers only tell part of the story of a conflict that has touched all aspects of life. Here, we share the views of six lesser-heard Burkinabé voices – a civil society leader, an aid worker, an imam, a teacher, a journalist, and a researcher. The New Humanitarian

UN in Libya Warns of Possible War Crimes as Fighting Rages
The United Nations on Monday warned of rapidly escalating violence and a worsening humanitarian crisis in Libya, which it said could amount to war crimes. While the U.N. Mission in Libya did not identify a perpetrator, it detailed a “dramatic increase” of indiscriminate shelling on densely populated civilian areas in the capital, Tripoli, that killed five civilians and wounded 28 over the past few days. Eastern-based forces under the command of Khalifa Hifter have been laying siege to Tripoli since last April, trying to wrest the city from the U.N.-backed government. … Over the past weeks, Hifter’s forces have launched rockets at civilian targets, including health facilities. Intensified shelling of Tripoli has sent thousands of people fleeing from their homes despite a lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In the latest assault, Grad rockets launched by Hifter’s forces struck two field hospitals, wounding five medical workers on Monday, according to the Tripoli-based health ministry. AP

UN Sanctions Central African Republic Rebel Group Leader Miskine
The United Nations Security Council has imposed sanctions on Central African Republic rebel leader Abdoulaye Miskine, who last year signed a peace agreement between the government and armed groups. Miskine, founder and head of the Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC), was offered a government position under the terms of the February 2019 accord signed in Khartoum. However, in the last report by U.N. experts monitoring sanctions and an arms embargo imposed in 2013, the self-proclaimed general was mentioned as looking for fighters. Despite the signing of the agreement, Miskine “remains a threat to the peace, stability and security of the CAR,” a diplomat said. The Defense Post

Top South Sudan Opposition Members Ditch Machar, Jump to Ruling Party
More members of South Sudan’s main opposition party have defected to the ruling party led by President Salva Kiir, with one former member accusing First Vice President Riek Machar of running the opposition like a family dynasty. Dak Duop Bichiok, a former SPLM-IO (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition) political bureau member, announced his resignation and that of hundreds of his followers in the diaspora at a Juba news conference late last week. “We are declaring that we are not any longer part of Dr. Riek Machar, and we are not alone. We have a group in Nairobi, Egypt, Khartoum and also in Addis Ababa and in the diaspora elsewhere in the world,” he said. The defections began after Machar’s wife, Angelina Teny, was appointed minister of defense in South Sudan’s transitional unity government. VOA

Tunisia Extends Coronavirus Lockdown to May 4, Expects Gradual Easing
Tunisia is extending a lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus to May 4, then it will ease restrictions gradually on some economic activities, Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh said on Sunday. The government has said it expected Tunisia’s economy would shrink by up to 4.3%, the steepest drop since independence in 1956, because of the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. The North African country has confirmed 866 cases of the coronavirus and 37 people have died. “The situation is relatively under control, but more caution is required,” Fakhfakh told state-run TV. He added that the pace of normal life will not return quickly even after May 4. Tunisia’s vital tourism sector could lose $1.4 billion and 400,000 jobs this year, an official letter sent to the IMF and seen by Reuters showed. Reuters

Coronavirus: Gang Kingpins in South Africa Call Truce to Help Community during Pandemic
South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown has unexpectedly brought warring gangs together to deliver food parcels to those struggling to make ends meet. The nation is in the fourth week of one of the toughest lockdowns in the world, with citizens banned from leaving their homes even for exercise and all alcohol and cigarette sales prohibited. Many of those already mired in poverty have been tipped over the edge by the pandemic, forcing one pastor in Cape Town to come up with an unusual community solution. … Across South Africa normally has some of the highest rates of violent crime in the whole continent but since the lockdown began has seen the numbers of murders, assaults and robberies collapse. Some claim this is because gang leaders on the Council, a network of kingpins across South Africa, have collectively agreed to a ceasefire. Others, including the country’s police minister Bheki Cele are credited the ban on liquor as well as a slump in demand for drugs which fuels gang activity. The Independent

South Africa to Increase Welfare Provision over Coronavirus: Ramaphosa
South Africa will increase welfare provision to help poor households suffering because of a nationwide lockdown aimed at containing the country’s coronavirus outbreak, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday. In a weekly newsletter to the nation, Ramaphosa said that the lockdown had revealed “a very sad fault line in our society that reveals how grinding poverty, inequality and unemployment is tearing the fabric of our communities apart.” He cited images of desperate people clamouring for food parcels at distribution centres as the lockdown leaves millions of people who are unemployed, working in the informal sector or in low-paid jobs struggling to support themselves. Ramaphosa did not specify how the government would lift welfare provision, but some economists and labour unions have called for social grant payments to be topped up. … He said in the newsletter that the government would this week announce interventions to shield people from starvation. Reuters

COVID-19: Zimbabwe Court Orders Police to Stop Harassing Journalists
A Zimbabwean high court on Monday ordered police to desist from arresting, detaining or interfering with the work of journalists providing coverage during the Covid-19 lockdown. The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and journalist Panashe Makufa had petitioned the court to issue the order following a string of incidents in which police and other law enforcement agencies harassed or arrested journalists while carrying out their duties. “The High Court has directed that… arrests or detention or other forms of harassment must stop,” a lawyer for the applicants, Chris Mhike, told AFP after the ruling. “The police and all others who are working with the police in enforcing the rules of the lockdown have been interdicted from carrying out those actions that amount to harassment of journalists,” Mhike said. … The government had categorised journalism as an essential service during the lockdown. AFP

Zimbabwe Faces Malaria Outbreak as It Locks Down to Counter Coronavirus
At least 131 people have died from malaria in Zimbabwe in a new outbreak, adding pressure to a country already struggling to deal with Covid-19. The fatalities occurred in 201 outbreaks recorded across the country, according to the Ministry of Health. Meanwhile Zimbabwe’s lockdown has been extended by two weeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus. … Malaria transmission is seasonal and unstable, causing sickness and death across all age groups. In Zimbabwe, epidemics occasionally occur during the warm and wet season, particularly in February, March and April. … The health system is at risk of crashing in case of a widespread Covid-19 outbreak. The virus has to date infected 25 people, killing three. … Two weeks ago, the government was taken to court over its failure to provide doctors working on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic with masks. … The country entered a second phase of the national lockdown on Monday with a 14-day extension. Authorities say they want to scale up testing which has so far remained low due to inadequate testing kits. The Guardian

COVID-19: Guinea’s Compulsory Mask Wearing Order Takes Effect
A compulsory face mask order kicked into effect in Guinea over the weekend (April 18) as part of government’s efforts to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. In the capital, Conakry, police officers conducted checks at major intersections and imposed a fine of 30,000 Guinean francs equivalent to 3 euros on offenders. In the inner suburbs, the majority of inhabitants respected this new measure which they considered useful. … But more than anything, the order has turned out to be a boost for many seamstresses and tailors, as the demand for masks have spiked since President Conde issued the order last week. Fatoumata Mbo, a seamstress confirms the boom: “I get a lot of calls for orders. Businesses, people of good will who call us and say “I want 50 or 150″ masks.” Guinea as of April 20, had registered 579 COVID-19 cases with five deaths. Amongst the dead are the head of the elections body, Amadou Salif Kebe and Secretary-General of the government Sekou Kourouma. Africa News

Can African Tailors Help End COVID-19 Mask Shortages?
Tailors in Nigeria’s Abia state are part of a continent-wide mobilization of citizens to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for the fight against the spread of SARSCoV-2 (new Corona virus). At a Presidential Task Force briefing in Abuja earlier this month, epidemiologist and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control Director Chikwe Ihekweazu told media that officials were looking into ways to make it possible for most of the country’s 200 million people to wear masks to protect each other from COVID-19. Physical distancing, he said, remains important, but the country’s most vulnerable people are often crowded together in ways that make separation impossible. And many people, in both urban and rural areas, have little access to clean water and soap for the handwashing that is central to preventing infection. Daily Trust newspaper, quoting CNN, says tailors in Aba, Abia state’s main centre of commerce, are using local fabrics, cotton, and polypropylene to sew by hand PPE such as overalls and face masks. AllAfrica

Cartoon Monster Helps Explain Coronavirus to Nigerian Children
It is hard enough for adults to get their heads around the coronavirus, but for children it can be even more difficult to understand why they can’t see their friends or play outside. That is where Niyi Akinmolayan’s cartoon monster comes in. The Nigerian filmmaker has created a 90-second animation to help youngsters understand why they have to stay at home after schools in Lagos were shut from March 23 and public gatherings were banned to stem the spread of the disease. It tells the story of two siblings, Habeeb and Funke. Habeeb gets tired of staying at home and decides to sneak out to play soccer. His older sister Funke warns him not go out, but he insists, only to be confronted by a monster. … Akinmolayan made the animation through his production company, Anthill Studios, using a 10-strong crew all working separately from their homes. It is being distributed for free and can be downloaded in English, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, French and Swahili. It is showing on some terrestrial television stations. Reuters



Photo: Adam Jones